A few years ago a massive new coal-fired power station construction programme was announced, involving 7 new ones and the first to be built in the UK for 30 years. Since then, not a single one has gone ahead, with some like Kingsnorth in Kent being put on hold indefinitely, the replacement of Cockenzie in East Lothian scraped entirely (for a gas plant) and Hunterston in North Ayrshire attracting so much opposition that it looks almost impossible that it’ll go ahead. Similarly, the much-heralded carbon capture pilot project at Longannet Coal-Fired Power Station in Fife, the only project of its kind in the UK, collapsed spectacularly after the government removed funding for it and results showed it wasn’t actually working. So what on earth is Summit Power Group, National Grid and Petrofac thinking?
Under the typically misleading name of the “Caledonia Clean Energy Project”, plans for a 500 MW coal-fired power station at Grangemouth were announced this week. According to the Express “The proposed coal-fired station would be built using the newly developed Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology, enabling 90 per cent of emissions to be safely stored.”
We don’t necessarily expect decent journalism from the Express, but in case it wasn’t clear all the many other times we’ve dismantled the myths around clean coal, here’s the short version:
1. CCS is not a newly developed technology, it is an idea and a pipe dream that has never been successfully trialled commercially. Even according to the industry, the technology is “10-15 years away”, and has been for at least 10 to 15 years
2. Claiming that this technology (which, did we mention, doesn’t exist?) would safely capture & store 90% of CO2 emissions is like saying a colander will capture 90% of the water you put in it. Firstly, much of the emissions involved in coal power, such as from the mining processes and transportation, are never accounted for. Secondly, CCS technology takes a huge amount of power to capture carbon, meaning more carbon emissions, and thirdly, brushing it under the geological carpet for another generation to deal with doesn’t sound like a safe & long-term solution
3. Coal can never be clean – even if the technology were to work and CO2 really could be captured, most of the coal burnt in the UK’s power stations comes from opencast coal mines. Whether from Scotland, Colombia, Indonesia or Russia, this coal is always dirty, and always harms the people and environment around the places its mined from
So, what are Summit Power Group, National Grid and Petrofac thinking? Its all actually a big scam. CO2 has been injected into running-out oil and gas fields, but only for something called “Enhanced Oil Recovery”, which basically squeezes out the stuff that the wells can’t get to. This technology, surprisingly enough, has been around for years. So far from being a clean coal plant that will use “climate-saving technology”, this plant will conveniently be next to an oil refinery that’s connected to pipes going all the way to the North Sea’s oil and gas fields. These fields are, of course, running out and could do with some CO2 injection to get out what’s left. Get the picture? That’s why a natural gas company, Summit Power Group, and an oil and gas company, Petrofac, want a new coal-fired power station. Could it actually be the case that what they want is the CO2, and that the electricity generated would in reality be a by-product?
Worse still, even the WWF have fallen for this one. Sam Gardner of WWF Scotland, apparently welcomed the scheme and said: “Unlike the climate-trashing Hunterston coal proposal, the close proximity of this latest scheme to Grangemouth means it has the potential to reduce climate change emissions from the heavy industry located there.”
No new coal-fired power station has the potential to reduce emissions and its time the WWF stopped buying into the greenwash of big climate-trashing business. In fact, maybe its just time we stopped big business.